Once terrorist recruiting tools, battlefield images now celebrated by the government

It was not so long ago that images of ordnance rocketing off American weapons platforms, plumes of smoke and debris rising off of freshly struck targets, and the faces of deceased enemy combatants on the battlefield was decried by many as uncivilized and a likely incitement to further violence.

In April of 2012, The Los Angeles Times published images of U.S. soldiers posing with the bodies of slain Taliban fighters. A solider, The Times reported, provided the media with the photographs after he was supposedly overcome with guilt and noted that the images suggest “a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.”

The Obama administration was furious over the incident. “My apology is on behalf of the Department of Defense and the U.S. government,” then Defense Sec. Leon Panetta said. White House Press Sec. Jay Carney called the soldiers’ actions “reprehensible.” He added that the president himself had called for an investigation into the incident.

This position was consistent with the Obama administration’s decision not to release images of the body of Osama bin Laden. While the administration did provide the press with photographs of the room in which the terror mastermind was killed, including an image of the blood-stained floor where bin Laden’s bodyguards fell, the White House declined to share images of the deceased terrorist leader.

As The Blaze’s Amy Holmes observed, President Barack Obama chose not to release those images because it could make America’s al-Qaeda problem much worse. “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” the president told CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Today, all that nonsense has flown right out the window.

No longer concerned about what the left once considered “the pornography of war” being used as a recruitment tool for jihadists, the State Department has started a social media campaign entitled “Think Again, Turn Away.” As a part of Barack Obama’s war against radical Islamic fundamentalism and the ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria, State’s social media campaign routinely publishes images of dead combatants and the war machine at work killing them.

think again turn away

“The U.S. government used the same account in recent weeks to distribute a mock ISIS recruiting video that lambasted the terror group for mass executions and the destruction of Muslim historical sites,” The Daily Mail reported. The account also sends out videos of U.S. jets executing strikes on ISIS targets and images of Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched from sea-based platforms.

What’s more, the government has discovered this unsanitized counter-propaganda is effectively dissuading some would be jihadists from joining the fight.

Social media messaging has become a key element in the Obama administration’s battle for hearts and minds in the Arab world, especially since ISIS – the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – began distributing graphic beheading videos that way.

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Sept 5 that the anti-jihad campaign had already ‘been appearing in Arabic for quite some time. We are doing more in English as well.’

The messages are produced by the agency’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications as a pushback against Islamist terror groups that use online spaces to recruit militants and spread propaganda to young followers.

Those who objected to the publication of battlefield images did not do so because they thought it would be a recruiting tool for the enemy. They objected because they disliked the associated glorification of the soldiers who were portrayed as effective warriors.

Aware of the controversy, some of this account’s more graphic images have already been deleted.

The hypocrisy of this administration’s decision to reverse its policy of publishing battlefield images has frustrated many:

But it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is another example of the administration’s perfectly consistent inconsistency. “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” President Richard Nixon famously told the British journalist David Frost. When Obama does it, that infamous phrase could be amended, it’s not wrong.